How Qualified is My Dentist?

When trying to select a dentist, many people have questions about what qualifications they should look for. I receive questions like, “How is DDS different from DMD?”, “What are the extra acronyms after DDS or DMD?”, and “How can I really know how qualified a dentist is?”

To help you in your quest to select a highly qualified dentist, here are some frequently asked questions about what all the letters after a dentist’s name really mean, and how to know how qualified a dentist actually is.

What is the difference between DDS and DMD? Short answer -- nothing. Most American dental schools award a DDS degree, that is a Doctor of Dental Surgery, but some schools award the equivalent DMD degree, the Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry. The American Dental Association (ADA) is aware that these acronyms are confusing to the general public, and have even thought about renaming the official degree that dentists receive--but then they decided that would be even more confusing. Just know that whether your dentist has DDS or DMD after his or her name, both are equivalent degrees, and each designates that your dental practitioner is a graduate of an approved dental program.

What tests do dentists have to pass in order to practice? In order to practice dentistry, your dentist not only has to successfully complete dental school coursework and exams, but also has to pass a two-part National Board Dental Exam. Generally, while in the early part of dental school, students take Part 1 of the exam, and then go on to take Part II by their fourth year.

What advanced certifications or additional qualifications after the DDS/DMD exist for dentists? There are two levels of continuing education achievement for dentists.

• The first level of advanced qualifications for dentists is the FAGD or Fellow of the Academy of General Dentistry. In order to qualify as a Fellow of the AGD, dentists complete at least 500 hours of continuing education credits after dental school, pass a rigorous exam, and must be a continual member of the Academy for three years.

• The MAGD is a Master of the AGD, and is the next designation level above FAGD. After becoming an FAGD, a dentist must earn an extra 600 continuing education hours in addition to meeting a core set of requirements. Dentists with MAGD after their name have logged many extra hours of hands-on coursework, as well as have extensive experience in the field.

How can I know what qualifications my dentist has? Most dentists proudly display their credentials on their signs, websites, and social media. If you’re not sure about a dentist’s qualifications--just ask. It may be that your dentist is currently logging continuing education hours, but hasn’t completed an official certification yet. What other questions do you have about dental qualifications?

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